Interview: Ben Ryan, England Sevens Head Coach

"It’s breathtaking. I would love to use this tournament as a springboard to bring in an under-18s England sevens side," says Ben Ryan, England Sevens Head Coach.

Are you spotting future talent while you’re here?

The future of rugby is, no doubt, seen at this tournament. It’s a breathtaking tournament. I would love to use this as a spring board to bring in an under-18s England Sevens side. The clubs are here, lots of the academy coaches, lots of scouts, it’s the game in every sense: it’s the standard. We’re tracking some of the under-18 guys that are playing out here, there are a few that have been identified as future England boys. You track one or two players that maybe you see at other school games, and if they’re decent get them into an academy.

Did you ever play here in the Rosslyn Park Sevens?

I played here a lot when I was at school, at comprehensive, and then I coached a school side here for six years – we took it pretty seriously. I loved it, it’s great. I love the knockout element of it, and the standards are really high, I’ve coached sides that have included people like James Forrester. He played in one great quarter final against Wellington where he was up with James Haskell, and against sides packed full of people like Tom Lynch, an international sevens player. I took a side here that won 36 games in a row and lined up against a northern side that we didn’t know much about except they had Matthew Tait in the side, and three tries later it’s game over.

What has sevens got that 15s hasn’t?

Luckily the sevens game as we play it at senior international level, mostly in the sunshine, is a world away from the sort of sevens that they have to enjoy here, where pretty much every year you know it’s going to be muddy and wet. Sevens basically exposes the core skills of decision-making. We have a generation of professional athletes coming through now in rugby where they’re fit, strong, faster than they ever have been – but understanding isn’t necessarily any further ahead. Sevens allows the opportunity to get the ball in hand that many more times. It’s flexible, offers different environments, and you’ve got to make so many more decisions. It’s pretty simple in that respect, it allows players to flourish; you’ve only got to go somewhere like Millfield and hear them talk about how they see it as a huge development tool for their players.

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